HOLLAND ANDREWS' 2013 brought a long string of bad luck. She was laid off from her job, and before that, the bedroom in the house she rented caught fire.
"I was lighting some ceremonial candles to celebrate a special astrological alignment," Andrews explains, "then I must have forgotten to blow one out before rushing out to a meeting. I wasn't able to live in my room after that and just slept on a futon in our living room."
Then her landlord decided to sell the house, forcing her to move. For a couple of weeks she was in a kind of housing limbo, in which her things were all packed up in her old place while she stayed with her boyfriend, waiting to move into her new place. On January 1, 2014, her old place was robbed. One of the items stolen was a computer that had some of the first songs Andrews ever wrote for her experimental musical project, Like a Villain.
"I lost a lot of stuff, but it also gave me a good excuse to purge a lot of nonsense that I had been holding onto," she says. "Whatever was on that computer, it was time for me to part ways with it anyway. At least that's the only way I can process it."
Andrews seems to take bad news in stride, and the idea that some cosmic or spiritual force is at work informs a lot of her outlook. "I've only been sorta witchy for the past three years, or identifying outwardly as a witchy person," she says jokingly. "I came out of the witch closet. Being a Scorpio, I've always been drawn to the darker, more mysterious sides of things."
Naturally, the witchiness extends to Like a Villain. "I asked my tarot deck what I should name the album, and I pulled out the high priestess," she explains about her new album. "With my deck, the high priestess is represented by the ancient Egyptian cat goddess Bast, so instead of naming it "The High Priestess," I decided to name it Bast.
"The high priestess represents deeper intuition," Andrews continues, "a higher knowing of yourself and life's path and stuff like that. It's a card that's been sort of following me around the past few years."
Andrews began experimenting with recordings in 2008, around the time she moved to Portland from Southern California. Under the name Like a Villain, she uploaded tracks to her MySpace page that layered vocals, clarinet, and glockenspiel, each typically awash in effects. But the project really started to take shape when Andrews started playing live in 2010.
"When I was a kid, I would do these musical theater camps," she says, explaining how she's often been more comfortable performing than recording. "I just always had a really fun connection with being onstage and playing make-believe."
The first two collections she released, a compilation of her first recordings and an album called The Life of a Gentleman, showcase Andrews' knack for texture and off-kilter, minimalist-inspired arrangements, but they didn't convey her fiery stage presence. Bast—which she recorded with Mike Erwin and enlisted the help of members from Typhoon, the Ocean Floor, Machinedrum, her former bandmates in AU, and others—is more dynamic and commanding, with delicate washes making way for explosive outbursts.
"After listening to the whole thing, I was like, 'Oh shit, this is a lot noisier that what I had planned it to be,'" Andrews says. "That wasn't really a deliberate choice, but that's just how things ended up."
But where a lot of noise artists approach the more visceral parts of their sets as a purging of negativity, the loudest parts of Bast are some its most positive—"posi noise," Andrews calls it.
"I'm in a time in my life where I'm getting to connect with some really deep-seated hurt and pain, and I know everybody has that," she says. "Everybody is struggling through something really, really huge that cuts deep. With what I do, I'm trying to offer some kind of relief, or a place where someone can connect with that pain and let go, even if it's in the tiniest, most microscopic way."